Once a year, I fly from New York to London to attend the London Book Fair. After crossing the Atlantic for much of the night, it is normal to feel out of sorts on arrival. This year, I was fortunate because the customs line was unusually short; even my luggage appeared after a short ten-minute wait. It was a quick train ride from Heathrow to Paddington Station, followed by a taxi ride to Kensington. And after a short afternoon rest, life began to seem possible again.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, I received a message from my good friend and business associate, Jonathan Williams. He asked if I would be interested in attending a publishing event that evening with him and his wife Lesley at a place called the Stationer’s Company. I had not planned to go out but decided on the spur of the moment to join them for this book publishing event.
Around 6 pm, I grabbed a taxi and headed off to the financial district of London near St Paul’s Cathedral. It turned out the Stationer’s was founded in 1403 and originally served as a guild for authors.
The event that evening was nothing to write home about, and in fact, during one presentation, my eyes began to close and my mind wander. As I looked around, I noticed a stained-glass window nearby and began to study the images. Just then, to my surprise, I noticed a reference to Isaiah 40:8 inscribed in the lower part of the window. As I recall, the passage itself was not there, just the reference. Later that evening, back at my hotel, I looked up the reference in Isaiah. It reads:
The grass withers and the flowers fade
But the word of our God endures forever.
The verse itself was unfamiliar, though I am sure I had read it countless times. What caught my attention was the power of the two short lines. It was as if I had been hunting for this verse for years. Finally, I found this treasure in full view; it was as if I had been purposefully given a map and instructions to go to this event to find something very important. The Holy Spirit operates like this often. You read a psalm or any passage and your inattention allows you to gloss over something significant. And then one day…
I have oft told the story of how, in a desperate moment, I entered a church in New York and prayed a simple prayer and how that moment lead me, a few weeks later, to go out and buy a Bible. This act, in turn, would lead me in a new direction, ultimately to my writing three books on what I might call “Biblical Discoveries,” almost 2000 of them.
In my earlier years, I did not see any purpose in my life beyond the limited vision of my own will to live and thrive. Perhaps the underlying theme of those years can be summed by the prevailing philosophy: “Let us eat and drink, you say, for tomorrow we die.” (Isaiah 22:13) I have always been acutely aware of the tragic divide between our earthly existence and our immortal longings. We may know the truth about our mortal existence, but we are tempted to avoid the implications like a plague. We long for the grass to flourish and the flowers to last because as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes God “has also set eternality in our heart.” The mortal heart cries as our immortal longings seek fields and grasslands that never give way to decay, remaining fresh and beautiful forever.
When I reflect upon the arc of my own life clearly, I see that I quietly battled the tragedy of time without the comfort of knowing the truth of Isaiah’s declaration that “The word of our God endures forever.” If we choose to live in the world of withering grass and fading flowers without knowing the truth of God’s Word, then life will be a tough struggle indeed.
So, while we live under the tyranny of the clock, we long for things eternal:
"So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18